|Diarmuid Ó Tuama
Although five or six years older than me I've known Diarmuid most of my life. His mother, Rosie, and my father Pat, were siblings and although there were others I was told they were very close. Both had been imprisoned in the 1940s and that's probably the reason they were so close.
As I grew up my da would bring me and my brothers and sisters to the Twomey house in Andersonstown and it was then I got to know them. Diarmuid, being older than me had his own friends so it's not as if I knocked about with him.
When I was 16, I went to work with two older cousins in BÁC and one of the things that I remembered was us visiting Diarmuid in Maynooth were he was studying for the priesthood. On entering his bedsit on the campus I noticed some pictures and clippings on the wall of his da, Séamus, who was chief-of-staff of the IRA. I was all chuffed!
Another thing I remember from those days was us driving up home with our cousin Fergie behind the wheel. As soon as we drove into the street the Twomey house was being raided and Brits were all over the place. They surrounded us and told us to get out of the car. After p-checking us they said they were taking us to Fort Monagh British army barracks. Diarmuid and Fergie protested, saying I was a young lad but they wouldn't listen to them and they put us in the back of a Saracen. I'd been in Fort Monagh a few times and it was a scary place but I felt safe with the two cousins. The thing that I'll never forget was when a Brit officer was asking us our religion. He said to Diarmuid I take it you're a Roman Catholic but he replied that he was an Irish Catholic. Being a wee innocent Catholic I was impressed!
I got to know Diarmuid better over the past 20 odd years and we'd talk about hurling, politics, history, wildlife and many other topics. He had strong opinions and with me also having strong opinions it was inevitable we'd disagree on some things, but we both got on with it.
A few weeks ago I heard he'd contracted cancer so I rang asking if it was alright for me to call and see him. His voice sounded strong on the fón and when I knocked the door he answered it. He'd lost a bit of weight but apart from that he was looking alright. He told me about the treatment he was expecting and in typical Twomey manner said he was going to fight it. We only spoke for a short time about the cancer then started talking about the many birds in his garden. I told him I was learning the names of the common birds as gaeilge and as he was liofa he gave me correct pronunciations of the ones I got wrong. We then went out to the garden where he showed me the herbs and vegetables he's been growing for years. Back in the house he showed me some Irish history books he'd recently got and was looking forward to more that his children got him every Christmas.
On New Year's Day I went to Naomh Pól to watch the Ulster club football final. A few of us then went into the club and Diarmuid's son, Séamus, came in. He has been involved with the club since he was a kid and now he's the priomhoide of An Bunscoil, the same role his da had for years. I asked about him and when he told me I said I'd call soon, which was going to be amarach.
Diarmuid, or Twomey as he was affectionately known, died suddenly of a heart attack this morning aged 71. Not just saying it because he's our cousin but he packed a lot in, being involved in the Bunscoilenna, CLG, stair agus a lán rudaí eile. He'll obviously be sadly missed by his immediate clann as well as many others who have met him.